The Pittsburgh Steelers may have lost one of the major talents at the wide receiver position in the NFL after trading Antonio Brown, but they do have, potentially, fairly enviable depth. They have a number of wide receivers on the roster right now who are rosterable—some of whom might not make the roster.
The Steelers certainly have at least six wide receivers on their 90-man roster who are worthy of a roster spot—largely, based on the fact that they have been on rosters before, short of rookie Diontae Johnson—and possibly even more when factoring in players like Diontae Spencer, Tevin Jones, and Trey Griffey, the latter two of whom had success in the preseason last year.
But will the Steelers actually keep six wide receivers? Is it necessary, or would it become redundant? Ordinarily, the sixth wide receiver spends his time on the inactive list. Or more accurately, the fifth does, because the sixth is a special teams player.
Bob Labriola believes that this summer, Eli Rogers and Ryan Switzer will be competing against one another for one roster spot, which may well indicate that he believes the team will only carry five wide receivers this year.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is obviously going to make the team, as will Johnson, James Washington, and free agent signing Donte Moncrief. After those four, it gets much more up in the air, but they like both Rogers and Switzer.
The problem is that the two of them have very similar skill sets, and the fact of the matter is that Smith-Schuster is actually their best slot receiver. Rogers and Switzer are both largely limited to playing in the slot, but even if Smith-Schuster plays a lot of snaps on the outside in three-receiver sets, Moncrief and Johnson could also play in the slot.
If the Steelers feel comfortable in the inside-outside versatility of their top four wide receivers, it’s going to be very difficult to justify keeping both Rogers and Switzer on the 53-man roster in 2019 because of the redundancy already mentioned, and the fact that one of them will spend most of the year as a healthy scratch.
There are other areas of the roster that could greatly benefit from that extra roster spot, particularly at the linebacker positions and in the secondary. If they are able to acquire another veteran tight end, it would also more easily allow them to carry an extra player there to accommodate rookie Zach Gentry without pressing him into play.